Wrongful Death Caused by Construction Accidents
Construction work is tough. It’s dirty. It’s noisy. It’s also potentially very dangerous.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports one out of every five worker fatalities in the private sector occurred in the construction industry. It’s estimated there are approximately 11 million construction workers in the U.S.
The experienced construction accident lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, are committed to fighting for families who have lost someone they love, someone they depended on, to negligence while working in construction. We also recognize wrongful death litigation in these instances can be complicated because of the exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation statutes.
It’s imperative to have an experienced legal team on your side. In some cases, families may be entitled to collect workers compensation and file wrongful death litigation against a third party. Exploring all possible options is a way to protect your financial future and encourage the industry to adopt and enforce tighter safety standards. When companies and contractors know they will be held accountable, they are more likely to make worker safety a priority.Construction Industry Danger
The most recent figures on construction industry deaths indicate there were 824 in 2013. Approximately 17 percent of those were contractors.
By far the most common type of fatal injury was falls, accounting for 37 percent of all construction worker deaths. This was followed by 10 percent killed when struck by an object, 9 percent killed via electrocution and 3 percent who died after being caught in/pinned. These are collectively referred to by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as “The Fatal Four.”
Florida accounts for a substantial number of construction-related deaths. There were slightly more during the housing boom, simply because there was more construction. Then there was a lull during the recession, and we’re now beginning to see these figures climb again.
In 2012 in Florida, there were 209 fatal work accidents, with 55 of those occurring within the construction industry. That was a nearly 35 percent increase from just a year earlier. Seven of those occurred in Collier and five in Lee.
The No. 1 citation handed out by OSHA in fiscal year 2014 was failure to have proper fall protections in the construction industry. No. 3 was failure to adhere to general requirements with regard to scaffolding in the construction industry. No. 7 was failure to follow ladder safety standards in the construction industry.
Leading causes of construction accidents include:
- Insufficient training
- Harness accidents
- Crane accidents
- Defective equipment
- Electrical accidents
- Falling objects
- Poor safety precautions and oversights
- Fires and explosions
- Improper use or maintenance of equipment
- Exposure to toxic substances
All of this indicates a large percentage of construction-related deaths are preventable.Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Construction Fatality
Survivors of a construction worker who dies in a work-related incident are most likely entitled to collect workers’ compensation death benefits.
Per F.S. 440.16, if a work-related death occurs within one year of the accident or following at least five years of continuous disability, families are entitled to a total of $150,000. This includes:
- Up to $7,500 in funeral expenses (to be paid within two weeks of receiving the bill)
- Compensation to dependents
- Educational benefits to surviving spouse
The law bases compensation on how much the worker earned weekly for a period prior to his or her death. The current formula allows for compensation of 66 percent and two-thirds the worker’s average wage.
However, along with this benefit comes the “exclusive remedy” provision of the law. This holds that while survivors don’t have to prove negligence on behalf of the employer, so long as the injury occurred in the course or scope of employment, the family cannot turn around and sue the employer in civil court.
There are a few exceptions in cases of gross negligence, but Florida law has made success in such cases difficult.
But that does not mean families are out of options.Third-Party Wrongful Death Lawsuit
First of all, just because a company categorizes a worker as “an employee” doesn’t necessarily make it so. Characteristics of the work may indicate the worker was actually some other category of worker. This would open the doors to a third-party lawsuit against the company.
Other possible liabilities may be held with the:
- Equipment manufacturer
- Construction site owner
In some cases, multiple claims may be pursued simultaneously.
It’s worth noting there may be limitations as to which third parties survivors may sue, per F.S. 440.10. The law says that if the decedent’s employer is a general or subcontractor working together with other subcontractors, then all contractors and their employees are entitled to immunity through the exclusive remedy provision.
If, however, the construction company fails to secure workers’ compensation insurance, survivors then have the option of choosing his or her remedy – which could include a wrongful death lawsuit. In these situations, F.S. 440.11 prohibits employer from raising defenses that death was an assumed risk or that the worker was comparatively negligent.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation